Intellectual Property

Intellectual Property

By Garrett Blasi, Christopher Donnelly, Anne Feldkamp, and Daphne Tibbetts

    In the digital age in which we live, protecting internet-based media and other various forms of intellectual property can be extremely difficult. Anything produced online, such as new-and-improved software, is much more vulnerable than a product with physical properties. One of the reasons it is so difficult to maintain proper credibility for virtual property is that unlike physical goods, content found online is generally not protected by strict legislation. Web-based goods and services are a fairly new commodity in the marketplace and lawmakers are still figuring out the best ways of ensuring the rights of those concerned. The following section will discuss the different forms of protection available to those who wish to protect personal property on the web, as well as a brief history of intellectual property before the web.

History of Intellectual Property

    Intellectual property has been around since very early times. In 500 B.C., in Sybaris which is a Greek colony gave “year- long monopolies for creating particular culinary delight (to chefs)” ( The next versions of intellectual property came about during the Roman times. Technically there were no laws protecting intellectual property but Romans did have rules that went with certain works of art. The first statute of intellectual property that came about was in the Republic of Florence. It was in the form of a patent given to Filippo Brunelleschi for his works of art. The first lasting patent institution was the Venetian Republic which was founded in 1474. This institution gave the rights of a term limit, infringement compensation, and an incentive.

    The United States protection of intellectual property is similar to the English system. The English system has two parts: Statute of Monopolies and Statute of Anne. The Statute of Monopolies was invented in 1624 and allowed fourteen year monopolies to the inventors or artists. In the year 1710, the Statute of Anne came about. Many scholars believe that this statute is the first of modern copyright. This allowed writers in addition to inventors and artists to have the fourteen year copyrights with an extension of fourteen years if they were still alive.

Types of Intellectual Property

    Intellectual property is everywhere because it is the creations of mind which include inventions, symbols, and names. Intellectual property has the rights to protect and control the ideas. There are two categories that intellectual property can fall into. The two types are industrial property and copyright. Industrial property includes patents and trademarks. Copyright includes literary and artistic works. There are also trade secrets, which are less known, yet more common, and not under legal protection.


    Copyrights are a category of intellectual property. This deals with the original works that are focused on the artistic levels. There are many types of works that fall under the copyright category. Intellectual property under copyright includes all forms of literary, scientific, and artistic works. Some of the common works are books, lectures, musical compositions, and paintings. “For something to be protected it must be “original”--the work must be the author's own production; it cannot be the result of copying” (Bleistein v. Donaldson Lithographing Co., 188 U.S. 239 (1903)). Another part of the copyright law is that is must be “non-functional” in nature. Also, the right only extends over the concrete expression.

    The owners of the copyright also enjoy several rights. There are two types of rights which are economic and moral rights. Economic rights allow financial reward which creates a personal link between the author and the work. These rights include the ability to reproduce the work, distribute, display, adapt it, and perform it publicly. Also included in the owner's rights is the ability to translate the work into other languages. The rights of copyright lasts the authors lifetime with an additional seventy years after that. Copyright only recognizes that right of the first sale of the work. After the sale is made, then the owner of the copies can do whatever they choose to do with the work.


    Patents are a form of intellectual property protection normally associated with physical goods. Millions of patents have been issued in the United States since the creation of the patent system in 1790. A patent is simply a government-issued license of ownership. This means that no one else has the right to produce or sell the invention of the individual who possesses the patent. Currently, patents last 20 years from the time in which they are issued. Typically, those who wish to protect digital property using patents are deterred by an application process that can be difficult and expensive. There are also three different types of patents – utility, design and plant – all of which have their own specific application process.


    A trademark is generally a symbol or phrase that dictates ownership of a specific good or service. Specifically, a “trademark” is just one type of mark used to classify physical goods. The other most common type of mark is a service mark, which as the name implies, identifies a service. In the digital world trademarks, or cybermarks, are an important asset when it comes to promoting a good or service. In all instances, the owner of a mark has the sole authority of its use and implementation. Similar to a patent, trademarks must be obtained through an application process. However, compared to patents, trademarks are fairly easy to acquire and are therefore widely used on the web.

Trade Secrets

    The last form of intellectual property is one that is not quite as well-known but is actually quite frequently used in the business industry. Trade secrecy is especially useful in the computer and software industry because it applies to more products than any of the other forms of protection. Trade secrets are ideas or information kept from the general population in order to preserve widespread usage. Trade secrecy is much easier to implement because there is no application process or fee. However, trade secrets are vulnerable because they are accessible to the public.

Intellectual Property in our Government

    Intellectual Property rights have been upheld by a variety of laws and court cases throughout the history of the U.S. Currently, there is still no easy way of keeping intellectual property well protected on the internet. In the past, several bills have been proposed to congress in attempt to better protect intellectual property on the web. The most recent of these bills are SOPA and PIPA. These two bills will be discussed and some court cases will be listed here.


    These two bills are almost always talked about together, since they were proposed to congress at the same time, and said very similar things. SOPA stands for Stop Online Piracy Act and the second for Protecti IP Act. Their purpose was to make it more difficult for websites to host pirated materials and sell counterfeit products. While these two bills had good intentions, they were written far too strictly for them to accomplish what they set out to do without huge amounts of censorship.

    It was written in these bills that all websites, search engines included, would be banned from linking to any piracy sites. These bills would also prevent credit card companies from sending payments to sites that have any pirated material on them whatsoever. The problem with this is that it wouldn't just affect the one portion of the site that had pirated material, it would affect the entire website. Essentially, any website could be blocked from receiving payment or blocked from internet traffic at all, just because one user had posted copyrighted material.

    Many people feared that if these two bills were enacted, fan art would be a thing of the past, many websites would be taken down or hindered for something a user posted that the administration had no control over, and the underlying structure of the internet would be affected. Thousands of websites did a black-out day, where they allowed nobody access to their website, in protest against SOPA and PIPA, to promote awareness and show just what these bills were capable of. Wikipedia was among them. Thousands more sites who didn't want to deny service to people had a period where they blacked out their logo instead, as a less radical protest for the same purpose. Google did this for a day. A huge amount of DeviantART users posted an image saying simply "DEVIATION CENSORED" in protest against the bills, for fear that their fan art could be taken down for using copyrighted characters, were SOPA and PIPA to pass.

    Luckily for the internet, the bills did not pass. However, there could be more bills like these popping up in the future. Any future bills, though, should be more specific and less strict, so whole websites won't be at risk just for a few users' abuse.

Famous Intellectual Property Court Cases
  • Oracle v. Google
  • Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.
  • Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh v. The Random House Group Limited
  • A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster Inc.
  • Adidas America Inc. v. Payless Shoesource Inc.
  • S. Victor Whitmill v. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
  • Isaac Newton v. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
  • Kellogg Co. v. National Biscuit Co.
  • Marcantonio Raimondi v. Albrecht Dürer
  • Mattel Inc. v. MGA Entertainment Inc.
Types of court cases

    Civil Court cases: Usually involve 2 companies, Company A and Company B. Company A has a program or idea which Company B uses in order to make money. Company A then brings Company B to civil court due to lost money. Company A must prove not only that Company B used their idea but that they lost money because Company B did this.

    Ex. Oracle v. Google: Google was brought to civil court by Oracle America which bought sun micro systems and therefore owned the program Java. Google used part of the code from Java in making there Android Operating system which is used on many smart phones. Being that the only way Java makes money is selling it to bigger companies to use in there programs Oracle sued Google because they didn’t pay. Google’s counter argument was that the little bit of code which was used contained the building blocks to any program, much like every car has wheels. In the end the court ruled in favor of Google and Oracle lost the case

    Criminal Court cases: Contains a company or person which has broken the law with a program they have created.

    Ex. A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster Inc.: Napster was brought to criminal court by many big record companies and the most famous one is A&M records. Napster as you may know was a music sharing website which was a new idea when it was first created. The problem with Napster was it was illegally sharing this music and people were getting music without paying a cent. The court ruled in favor or the record companies and Napster was shut down. 

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